About Us

Our Mission: Providing Ongoing Education and Prevention

Kids on the Block’s mission is to provide ongoing education and prevention through puppetry for children and the community at large. The core message in each program is to teach children acceptance of differences in themselves and in others.

The troupe uses life size puppets and performs 17 topics in the style of Bunraku puppetry. The puppeteers travel the state performing in schools, boys and girls clubs, and other community centers.  In 2019, 29,005 children in 20 counties viewed programs. The puppets bring children to a teachable moment by reflecting their hopes, fears, likes, and dislikes.

Other initiatives include owning and operating The Higgins Center for Nonprofits, free kids runs, a youth board for elementary aged children, and a monthly victim impact panel to combat driving under the influence.

Our History

Kids on the Block History

In 1977, special education teacher Barbara Aiello had a student, Anthony, with cerebral palsy who used a wheelchair. Anthony was bright, and Barbara felt that he was ready to be mainstreamed into a “regular” classroom. A few days later, Anthony told her he didn’t want to go back to that classroom because children ignored him, made fun of him and didn’t want to play with him.

While Anthony was academically prepared, teachers or children in the “regular” classroom weren’t prepared for Anthony. So, Barbara made a puppet with Anthony’s likeness, including his red hair and constructed a wheelchair out of garden hose and bicycle tires. Using the puppet, Barbara explained to his class why he looked different, talked differently and used a wheelchair. Kids on the Block was born the moment children began to raise their hands to ask the puppet character questions. When a hand was raised, a barrier came down. 

From there, Anthony’s puppet grew to a family of puppet characters and programs designed to help children understand and cope with sensitive issues.

Coming to Kentucky

Kentucky Kids on the Block was founded in 1985 by Jamie Gaddie Higgins and Alice Kummer. Jamie took her daughter, Heather, to a Spina Bifida Association Christmas party. Nashville Kids on the Block performed their “Accepting Differences” program. Heather, who has spina bifida, reacted in such a positive way, her mother reached out to her friend, Alice, about starting their own puppet troupe in Bowling Green.

The puppetry used by Kentucky Kids on the Block is based on a Japanese style of puppetry called Bunraku. Bunraku puppetry, using life sized puppets, is used to bring children to the teachable moment. Each year, Kentucky Kids on the Block presents 300 programs to approximately 30,000 children in 20 Kentucky counties. The programs blend humor with sensitivity to help children develop an attitude of understanding and acceptance toward others that will serve them the rest of their lives. Kids on the Block is housed in the Higgins Center for Nonprofits.

Our Team

Kids on the Block Staff

staff-ashley-reynolds-bio

Ashley Reynolds

Executive Director
staff-amanda-guerra-bio

Amanda Guerra

Director of Programs / Lead Puppeteer
staff-regina-pedigo-bio

Regina Pedigo

Puppeteer/Special Projects
staff-katie-van-zile-bio

Katie Van Zile

Puppeteer
staff-jacob-brennenstuhl-bio

Jacob Brennenstuhl

Grant Writer
staff-caitlin-brock-bio

Caitlin Brock

Puppeteer / Marketing

Board of Directors

Hannah Barahona
Realtor/Property Manager, 
Coldwell Banker Legacy Real Estate Group/Lawrence Investment Properties

Ashley Lillard
Health Education Coordinator at Barren River District Health Department Kentucky Kids on the Block Position: Secretary

Amanda Blakeman
Attorney at Schuette Law Group

Tracey Pharris
Market Lender, Assistant Vice President at BB&T/Truist Bank

Alan Cooper
General Manager at WDNS/WLCT Radio
Kentucky Kids on the Block Position: Treasurer

Angela Reeves
Franchise Owner of Wild Eggs

Lisa Duffin-Rexroat
Associate Professor at WKU College of Education and Behavioral Sciences

Ashley Reynolds
Executive Director of Kentucky Kids on the Block

Sherri Emberton
Accounting Controller at Scotty’s Contracting and Stone
Kentucky Kids on the Block Position:  Vice Chair, Treasurer

Kelcey Rock
Vice President of Hancock Bank

Kayla Fugate
Staff Attorney at Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy
Kentucky Kids on the Block Volunteer Position: Chair

David Smith
Commercial Lender at Hancock Bank

Adam Galloway
Senior Vice President of Communication at German American Bank

Mary Vitale
Owner of New Millennium Real Estate, LLC

David Hosay
Account Manager at Sublime Media Group

Barry Williams
Owner of Communication Systems

Michele Humphrey
Branch Manager of American Bank and Trust

Melodi Williams
Occupational Health Nurse

Lauren Kummer
High School Assistance Counselor at Warren County Public Schools

Shanda Yates
Mortgage Loan Originator at South Central Bank

Advisors

Shelly Compton
Partner at Carr, Riggs, and Ingram, CPAs

Sandy Riley
Owner at Riley’s Bakery

Linda Gray
Chief Operating Officer at Marquee Broadcasting, Inc

Steve Sutton
President of Chase Bank

Heather Higgins-Jeffrey

Mary Vitale
Owner of New Millennium Real Estate, LLC

John Kelly
Kelly Family Foundation

Julie Wedge
Wedge Family Foundation

Alice Kummer
Kentucky Kids on the Block Co-founder

Barry Williams
Owner of Communication Systems

Mike Law
Materials Vice President of Scotty’s Contracting and Stone

County Representatives

Allen County:

Matt Pedigo:
Owner/News Editor at Citizen Times of Scottsville

Barren County:

Kelly McKay
Radio DJ at Commonwealth Broadcasting

Jefferson County:

Julie Ann Rosing
Law Clerk at US District Court for Western District of Kentucky

Ashley Reynolds

Executive Director

“Passion is the difference between having a job or a career.” When Ashley Reynolds began her journey as the grant writer at Kids on the Block in 2013, she knew she had found her career. After being appointed Executive Director in 2014, she and the staff set a goal for a second troupe to be formed which would be primarily focused on child abuse prevention. That dream was realized when Kids on the Block received The Women’s Fund Impact Grant in 2019. Her favorite program is child abuse because she strongly believes the most immediate need facing our world is protecting children.

She loves being involved in the community and also serves as a Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce Ambassador, and on the Crime Stoppers Board of Directors.

Ashley enjoys teaching hot yoga, collecting antiques with her dad, going to concerts with her mom, and planning her next trip to the beach with her husband, sons, and two wild dogs.

Amanda Guerra

Director of Programs/Lead Puppeteer

I am a WKU graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Child and Family Studies. So I thought Kids on the Block would be a good fit for me. I started working at Kids on the Block as a puppeteer in June 2011. In 2014 I became the Director of Programs and Lead Puppeteer.

I enjoy presenting programs at schools because through puppetry I am able to bring children to a teachable moment that they don’t forget. The programs that I feel most passionate about teaching is the Child Abuse Prevention programs. These programs not only teach children about child abuse but also teach children how to get out of abusive situations.

The programs that I have the most fun presenting are the Accepting Differences (Campers program), Problem Solving, and Divorce programs. (Who am I kidding, they are all fun!) When I am not working I enjoy outdoors activities such as gardening, hiking and kayaking with my husband, daughter and our dog.

Regina Pedigo

Puppeteer/Special Projects

I have lived in Bowling Green most of my life. I married my husband in 1996 and we had our daughter in 2000. I had always worked with kids and would play with puppets and change my voice for the different characters in the books I would read to them. Little did I know God was preparing me for something greater. I started working with Kids on the Block on March 1, 2007. My favorite KOB program is Child Abuse Prevention. The pain of being abused follows a child the rest of their life and if just one child learns they can say no or learns that it’s ok to tell, then it is worth all the time we put into it. When I’m not at work I am very involved with my church where I currently lead the music and choir. I love to hike, camp, cook and sing. I have 2 dogs, 1 cat and a ball python.

Katie Van Zile

Puppeteer

Hi there! Growing up overseas while my father served in the US Army, the only television that came on in English was Sesame Street and The Muppet Show. I’m a puppetry enthusiast from birth! I’m an alumnus of The Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts, and that’s where my passion for arts outreach and nonprofit work really began to bloom. My favorite KOB program is Child Abuse Prevention. Knowing that my puppet skills can make a positive impact on the lives of the future of Kentucky means the world to me. When I’m not hanging out with my felt-covered friends, I’m working on my degree in theatre at Western Kentucky University. You might also catch me singing and dancing on stage, doing standup comedy, or baking sweets in the kitchen with my husband, Josh.

Jacob Brennenstuhl

Grant Writer

I am a WKU graduate with a master’s degree in public administration. I initially volunteered for Kids on the Block through grant writing in late 2017, and found I clicked well with the staff members. After a year on contract, I formally joined Kids on the Block as the in-house grant writer. While I may not present programs like many of the other staff members, I still take pride in my role in our mission. No matter how important a non-profit’s job is, it has to have money to be fulfilled, and so grant work is important – especially when it comes to getting Kids on the Block programs to counties that don’t have kids runs or other fundraisers. Aside from working on grants, I also help maintain our contact database.

As the first individual in Warren County who was diagnosed with Autism, I naturally care quite a bit about our Autism program. You might be surprised to know, however, that like many of our staff members, I believe our most important program is Child Abuse Prevention. When I’m not working in front of a computer for eight hours a day, I can be found in front of a computer playing games.

Caitlin Brock

Puppeteer/Marketing

I’m a graduate of Western Kentucky University with a bachelor’s degree in Theatre and Performing Arts Administration. I am also an alumni of the drama program at the Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts and have grown up in and around theatre and the arts, including many Young Performers productions at the former Kentucky Repertory Theatre. I have worked professionally with Tecumseh! Outdoor Drama and the Hampstead Stage Company as well as participated in several shows in the Bowling Green theatre community.

I am ecstatic to be working with Kids on the Block, and to be able to make a difference in kids lives by showing them how to deal with really tough subjects in a fun environment, such as the Child Abuse program. In my spare time I love to read, write, make art, and crafts, get outdoors, and see live shows.